Vladimir Putin’s Russia revels in a World Cup nobody could take away
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 01: FIFA President, Gianni Infantino speaks to Vladimir Putin, President of Russia as they walk onto the stage during the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at the State Kremlin Palace on December 1, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Russia is the host of  2018 World Cup amid persistent tension with the West about issues such as Moscow’s interference in Ukraine, it’s alleged meddling in US elections, and the nerve-agent poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in England.

Russian president Vladimir Putin addressed representatives of more than 200 national soccer federations at the 68th FIFA Congress today ahead of  the World Cup tournament opening tomorrow and said, according to Radio Free Europe:

“I would like to make special note of FIFA’s adherence to the principle of sports outside of politics,'”

“Russia has always supported this approach.”

Putin will attend the opening game of the World Cup, as Russia plays Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The tournament, which will be played at 12 stadiums in 11 Russian cities, ends on July 15.

The FIFA Congress has rule out Morocco and selected US, Canada and Mexico as the host of the 2026 World Cup.